When I was younger, I was told nice Jewish girls don’t sing for a living. I always thought it rather an odd statement as there were, and are, plenty ‘Nice Jewish girls’ around the world who are incredible, influential artists, performers, creators and creatives … Barbara Streisand, Diane Warren, Carol King, Carly Simon, Lisa Loeb, Pink … and so many more.
And so started my pragmatic love affair with the Performing Arts. With music, with singing, with production….and with my work as owner of ‘Maverick Warehouse Media’ – a creative production, broadcast & soft skills consultancy that brings communication strategies and events to life using experiential engagement.
It is through Maverick’s dynamic engagements, corporate launches, activations, live performances and team engagements that I get to work with our, beyond talented, inspirational South African performance artists.
These artists are the cultural brand ambassadors for the country and our collective culture storytellers. They are our traditional urban stage or street performers, they are representatives of our vibrance, creativity and diversity.
Aside for the creativity and play, The Arts have always been a space for teaching self-expression. In fact, the performing arts help all of us in society, across all languages and cultures to have empathy, understanding and self-knowledge. It’s a mirror.
Then 2020 saw the world change significantly…and people in The Arts are still devastatingly affected.
Despite the many obstacles faced prior to Covid, artists were still able to make a living through live performances, events, and theatrical shows. International artists could travel here, and local artists could travel to access work abroad. Since Covid, this has declined.
If the tools of your trade are removed … and there is no economic, social, or infrastructural support because your trade (certainly in South Africa) operates in a cash-based economy…. and has always been seen as non-essential … and you happen to live in the informal settlements and suburbs around the country … how are you to survive let alone “pivot” and adjust to our “new reality”.
While Artists are creating content faster than ever before, it is only those that are able to afford connectivity, expensive equipment and technological platforms – that can do so. For many this is impossible. Many have been forced to learn a new skillset to survive, forcing artists to start operating out of their craft.
In April 2020 I banded together fellow friends, colleagues and performing industry freelancers, all of whom live in Alexandra, Soweto, Atteridgeville & Mamalodi; and all of whom wanted to help those in the industry that were suffering.
We started crowdfunding to our friends & family across the globe in a plea to raise funds to get food vouchers to hundreds of artists without an income or safety net. In May 2020, our Non-Profit ThusaArtZA was registered. To date we have managed, in small ways, to ensure hundreds of families on the ground have a friend to call if they need help.
ThusaArtZA’s vision is to help artists help themselves, enabling them to continue to work, earn a living, learn new skills and thrive beyond the current reality. To continue to perform, teach, inspire, and connect with the outside world via virtual and hybrid platforms – showcasing their craft
EMPATHY, IDEATION, COLLABORATION AND PRODUCTIVITY.
Human behaviour is often a result of circumstance and of what you are surrounded by, whether good or bad. In the Jewish home I come from, Judaism has always been illustrated as people, family, community. The collective as an integral part of the experience. Kehilla.
Now that ThusaArtZA’s had been formed, we still needed to address the emergency need of income.
So, without a clue of what or how to do it … we started out with what we had. WIFI, a phone, a network, ideas, a performing Arts collective, and the ability to try help. We formed the social enterprise EzaseKasiJHB so artists could earn money while helping the community.
EzaseKasiJHB is a bicycle operated delivery service, loosely based on UberEATS or the Checkers 60 model, running at a grassroots level over WhatsApp and Facebook. What started as a crowdfunding exercise to get Bicycles, has turned into a small functional social business in Alexandra, JHB.
It is run by our business partners who live in Alex. We have 6 bikes and 2 vehicles that run daily deliveries in and around Alex. It is run from the inside out … by the people, for the people, within the Alex economy. The cyclists are earning between R1000 – R2000 a month and are in turn supporting their families. Rates are from R5 a pick-up, which ensures that pensioners, the elderly, and the indigent all benefit.
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNT
This model works and needs to grow. It is a functional small business that can contribute to actualising the people’s economy. By creating a groundswell of small entrepreneurs and community beneficiaries, we know we can reach many through our national networks.
We have also learnt that it really does take a village. Generous help has come through family internationally and friends at Noah’s Art and the Angel Network. Without whose help this would not have been able to even start.
CALL TO ACTION
Please support our singers, donate to our dancers, maintain our musicians, and save our traditional artists. They are the storytellers of our nation who will be the mirror & the inspiration to others on the ground. We’d love to partner with businesses, individuals, and corporates to help us grow this to the next phase of what we envision. Social Investment opportunities, CSI development, skills sharing and more. We would love to have a conversation
Janice Lurie is a valued member of Jewish Social Justice NGO, Mensch, and a 2021 Graduate of the Mensch Leadership Programme, LIFT. To read more about Janice and her work Click HERE, or visit websites: www.thusaartza.org and www.ezasekasiJHB.co.za.